Gerald Genta Watches: A Legacy of Innovation and Elegance Being Revived
In the world of luxury watches, few names carry as much prestige and innovation as Gerald Genta. Renowned for his exceptional design skills, Genta left an indelible mark on the watchmaking industry. But beyond his legendary collaborations with prestigious brands, there exists a lesser-known chapter in his horological journey - the eponymous watchmaking brand he founded. So, let's delve into the fascinating history of Gerald Genta's own watchmaking brand, its iconic models, and its journey through changing ownership, culminating in its recent revival under LVMH's stewardship.
A Visionary Pioneer: Gerald Genta
Gerald Genta, born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1931, was a prodigious talent in the world of horology. His career began with an apprenticeship at a local Swiss watchmaker, where he honed his skills and developed a deep appreciation for craftsmanship. His talent was undeniable, and he quickly gained recognition as a master of his craft.
Genta's breakthrough moment arrived in 1954 when he was just 23, designing the Polerouter for Universal Geneve – a since defunct vintage watchmaker who once occupied the zenith of Swiss watchmaking. In the years following, he designed a plethora of incredible watches, with his arguably most famous in 1972 – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, a stainless steel sports watch that defied traditional design norms. This revolutionary timepiece, characterised by its octagonal bezel, integrated bracelet and exposed screws, set a new standard for luxury sports watches that has since become the standard that modern watchmakers quickly followed, like Patek Philippe, IWC, Vacheron Constantin and many many more.
The Birth of a Legend: Gerald Genta's Own Brand
In 1969, Gerald Genta decided to venture into the realm of watchmaking under his own name. This bold move led to the establishment of the Gerald Genta brand. His eponymous brand would go on to create some of the most unique and avant-garde watches ever conceived. As is his signature, Genta began to create watches that were wildly different from what was typical at the time. Experimenting with new materials, case shapes and designs, Genta eventually thought he would bring cartoon characters to the dials of his watches.
Following this decision, he approached Disney in the '80s and successfully obtained a license to incorporate Disney characters into his watches. Most of these designs used the hands of the Disney characters as the hands of the watches and even included complications such as retrograde displays and even some lavish designs adorned with diamonds and precious metals. Given that watchmaking was such a tradition-focused industry, Genta was asked to leave the “Montres et Bijoux” exhibition in Geneva in 1984 due to how ridiculous Genta's peers thought his Disney watches were.
Beyond those now iconic Disney collaboration pieces, another one of Genta's most notable creations was the iconic "Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retro." Introduced in the 1980s, this watch featured a distinctive oval case, a jumping hour display, and retrograde minutes. It was a testament to Genta's unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of traditional watch design as he went in a different direction to create an entirely distinct aesthetic.
Changing Ownership and Evolution
Over the years, the ownership of the Gerald Genta brand changed hands multiple times. While Genta himself remained committed to his craft, the brand faced challenges in maintaining its identity and market presence, so the brand was first sold to The Hour Glass in 1996, a Singapore-based watch retailer that began to buy independent watchmakers in the mid-1990s. Following the Asian Financial Crash in the late 1990s, The Hour Glass then had to sell Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth to the famed Italian jeweller and design house Bulgari in 2000.
Acquired by the Bulgari Group, the Gerald Genta brand began some exciting developments. Recognising the potential of the brand's heritage, Bulgari first began creating timepieces that incorporated Genta's innovative design language with their eye for the finer things. So Gerald Genta's timepieces soon became more fashion-forward. Eventually, however, Bulgari began to incorporate these designs into their own collections and swallowed the brand in its entirety.
Gerald Genta Under New Stewardship
In turn, Bulgari and its associated property was then bought by the LVMH group in 2011, and so, finally, after over a decade of waiting for a true Gerald Genta watch, it was announced in early 2023 by LVMH that Gerald Genta would be revived as its own stand-alone brand, following a reissue of some of Genta's earlier Disney watches in late 2022 that proved to be a massive success and the well-wishes of Evelyne Genta.
Spearheaded by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the high-end movement manufacturer that LVMH also acquired quite some time ago, the Gerald Genta brand will focus on creating versions of Genta's timepieces that will maintain his spirit and retain his iconic aesthetic as though he was still alive and designed the timepieces himself. While this is a worthwhile endeavour, it also looks like LVMH wishes to grow their portfolio of watchmaking brands without having to continue buying them, a tactic that has not proven to be wildly successful so far, given the negligible impact such acquisitions have had on LVMH's stock performance.
Launching in late 2023, the first watch under the revived brand will be a minute repeater version of Genta's Mickey Mouse Jumping Hour watch from the 1980s for OnlyWatch 2023. Of course, that will be a Piece Unique and not in regular production, so we still don't know what the first production watch will be, but it will be launched in early 2024, we believe, and if it follows in the footsteps of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton's other revival watch from Daniel Roth, which is a new Tourbillon Souscription, it will be something special indeed.
A Timeless Legacy That Will Continue
The journey of Gerald Genta's own watchmaking brand is a testament to the enduring appeal of innovation, elegance, and craftsmanship in the world of luxury watches. From its inception to its recent revival, the brand has consistently pushed boundaries over the decades and created horological masterpieces that continue to captivate collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Today, the Gerald Genta brand stands as a living tribute to its visionary founder, an embodiment of his relentless pursuit of excellence in watchmaking. As it continues to evolve and create, it reminds us that true luxury is not just about owning a watch; it's about owning a piece of horological history and innovation, something that is often forgotten as the industry chases the appeal of our shorter and shorter attention spans and social media engagement.
If you'd like to keep up to date with Gerald Genta, make sure to keep an eye on their website here.